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The Tomb of Sennedjem

Sennedjemlived inDeir el-Medina(The Village), or the Place of Truth, on the west bank of theNile, oppositeThebes, during the reigns ofSetiI andRamesses II.He was buried along with his wife, Iy-neferti, and family in atombin the village necropolis. His titles includedServant in the Place of Truth,meaning that he worked on the excavation and decoration of the nearbyroyaltombs. He was also allowed to create and decorate his own tomb, and the result of his "spare time" labour ismagnificentto this day.

The end wall shows Sennedjem's view of his afterlife, evidently as a farmer reaping corn, ploughing with oxen, and growing fruit on heavily laden fruit trees in an orchard. He is accompanied throughout by his faithful wife Iy-neferti. The farm is surrounded by streams of water. This view of heaven is all the more poignant when you realise that he had spent his life living in the arid desert where Deir el-Medina was situated on the West Bank. So, heaven to him might well be as shown on the walls of the tomb, with food and water in abundance.

The top register shows RaHorakhte-Atum, Lord of the two lands, Kheper (the rising Sun) in the solar barque, attended by the baboons who howled at sunrise and sunset each day, and so were considered sacred. Did Sennedjem identify with RaHorakhte, as would the pharaoh upon death? Why not.

The opposite end-wall shows Sennedjem and Iy-neferti worshiping some thirteen gods, with Osiris and Ra-Horakhte (Horus in the Horizon, an amalgamof Horus and Ra) leading each row. The two rows may therefore have corresponded with gods of the Duat or underworld and gods of the everyday world of KMT, or Egypt.

Next, Anubis performing mummification rites over the mummy of the Pharaoh Seti I, who is stretched out on an elaborate lion-bed. This would be a copy of the work that Sennedjem had carried out in Seti I's tomb in the Valley of the Kings…There is also a version of this in the tomb of Nefertari, Rameses II's Great Wife. Sennedjem served both pharaohs...

The last photograph is of Osiris as pharaoh, ruler of the Underworld, the Duat, with the eyes of Horus looking on. The two posts on either side are the Imiut Fetish, otherwise the Anubis Fetish: they comprise a stuffed animal skin, often a bull or a feline, tied by the tail to a pole terminating in a lotus bud, set into a stand. The origin and significance of the Imiut fetish is oscure, but dates from the first dynasty, or even before. The whole depiction may represent a ritual temple to Osiris, orperhaps even a notional entrance to his underworld domain. Such depictions are not uncommon in royal tombs of the time, e.g.Hatshepsut,Tutankhamun, Seti I, Nefertari…

Taken together, the four walls show Sennedjem and Iy-neferti makingtheobligatory offerings and prayers to enter the Duat, and their image of what their afterlife was to be.

Altogether rather beautiful and exceedingly well preserved.

(My photographs, 1992)

For more detail on the wall paintings and how they have been photographed without distortion due to the curved walls and ceiling, see Unfolding Sennedjem's Tomb.


D K Hitchins 2015